PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Rhode Island Blood Center (RIBC) is changing its donor eligibility following updated guidance from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Last year, the FDA lifted a decades-old donor ban regarding Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, commonly known as “mad cow disease.”

RIBC Vice President Beau Tompkins said the decision will make more people eligible to donate and potentially increase the nation’s blood supply.

“The move by the FDA allows for the opportunity to expand our donor base during a challenging time for our region’s blood supply,” Tompkins said. “Our type O- and platelet inventory has been critical at times and well below the ideal 5-7 days.”

Since the 1980s, people with mad cow disease were barred from donating blood, particularly those who were in certain European countries at that time.

The RIBC has since been working with the FDA and other agencies to safely roll out the reinstatement of previously prohibited donors.

The following groups are now allowed to donate:

  • People who spent time in the U.K. from 1980-1996
  • People who spent time in France and Ireland from 1980-2001
  • People who received a blood transfusion in the U.K., France, and Ireland from 1980-present

The RIBC says it’s started reaching out to those who were previously banned.

Questions related to mad cow disease may still appear on forms for data collection purposes, but the RIBC says it will not result in a deferral.

“The patients and hospitals RIBC serves rely on volunteer blood donors for their lifesaving treatments,” said Caitlin Grimaldi-Flick, RIBC’s marketing and communications manager. “We encourage newly eligible donors to roll up their sleeves to donate and help stabilize our blood supply.”

The FDA also recently eased restrictions on blood donations from gay and bisexual men, as well as other groups that traditionally face higher risks of HIV.